Headquartered in Oakland, California, As You Sow (AYS) is an environmental nonprofit that promotes “social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building,” and litigation. AYS is critical of crop biotechnology and regularly pressures food companies to pull GMO crops out of their supply chains to stem the “environmental and public health issues associated with genetic engineering ….”
Despite evidence that GMO crops are tightly regulated, As You Sow claims that federal officials effectively let biotech companies set their own rules for products they develop. “GMOs have always been lightly regulated — the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency have often rubberstamped GMOs without adequate review of social or environmental effects,” As You Sow argued in March 2017. The group also says this lack of oversight poses a risk to our health “as the floodgates open” and next-generation gene-edited crops reach the market. “Unregulated biotech crops could have unintended health, economic, and environmental impacts, similar to the impacts that we have seen with pesticide-dependent GMOs.”
As You Sow lobbies for a ban on glyphosate, the popular weed killer often paired with herbicide-resistant GMO crops. AYS argued in a June 2017 report that “glyphosate poses a threat to human health and the food system” and the same year filed a shareholder petition against Pepsi urging the company to stop sourcing oats treated with glyphosate for its breakfast cereals. The group contended in the petition that the weed killer is linked “to chronic toxic effects – such as kidney damage and endocrine disruption – even at low levels.” However, no evidence exists to justify these assertions.
The group promotes activists who make scientifically questionable claims because they support AYS’s mission. In 2015, for instance, As You Sow president Danielle Fugere endorsed the work of anti-GMO blogger Vani Hari (the “food babe”), saying even “if she gets the science a little bit wrong, ultimately the bigger point is that [GMOs] shouldn’t be in our food.” Hari has drawn the ire of experts for her claims that GMOs cause liver damage, reproductive problems and are introduced into the food supply without any oversight from government regulators.
AYS is one of several high-profile anti-GMO advocacy groups that receives financial support from wealthy private foundations in the US. The Park Foundation, which donates to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Center for Media and Democracy and EarthJustice, has given AYS nearly $300,000 since 2012. As You Sow has also directly supported anti-GMO advocacy groups, including EWG, Pesticide Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council.
Annual Revenue: $3,378,610 (2016)
Total Assets $1,748,719 (2016)
Major Donors (total contributions 2012-present)
Roddenberry Foundation $956,781
Wallace Global Fund II $697,000
Educational Foundation of America $537,000
Wallace Global Fund $285,000
Park Foundation 285,000
California Community Foundation $225,000
Tides Foundation $180,048
Rockefeller Brothers Fund $120,000
Marisla Foundation $105,000
Merck Family Fund $120,000
Contribution totals only reflect publicly reported donors and may not include significant contributions from corporations, litigators and governments, domestic and foreign, through percent of sales agreements and allocations through various arrangements such as state lotteries and aid programs. Many claims by nonprofit organizations that they receive no contributions from governments or corporations are misleading or false.